What to Do About Communication Misfires

Communication Misfirings at Work

We all put our feet in our mouths from time to time. Sometimes it takes a while to realize a misstep. Sometimes you realize you’ve made a huge mistake as the words are coming out of your mouth. Saying something inconsiderate or rude or offensive is awkward when it happens among family or friends. When it happens at work, it could get you fired.

So what should you do when you know you’ve made a mistake?

It’s simple: apologize. These are the characteristics of a true apology.

  • Timeliness – Apologize for your actions as soon as you realize that you’ve made a mistake. Don’t wait to see if the person gets upset or if they show signs of holding a grudge. Own up to what you did as soon as possible.
  • Sincerity – If your apology begins with, “I’m sorry if…” that’s not a real apology. A real apology should begin with “I’m sorry that…” It’s not the person’s fault that they were offended. Even if you think the person overreacted, it will not help either of you feel any better to insist that they are in some way at fault for their own feelings.
  • Thoughtfulness – Show that you’re not just apologizing because you think it’s expected but because you actually feel regret. You can do this by explaining why you acted the way you did and what you now recognize your error to be.
  • Amends – Following up a spoken apology with an offer to make amends is the best way to demonstrate sincerity. Simply asking, “What can I do to fix this?” is a good start. Offering up a solution is an even better one.

Keeping Your Foot Out of Your Mouth

Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all avoid saying regrettable things in the first place. Especially in the workplace, it’s important to be aware of your environment and the feelings of everyone you work with, not just the people that you’re talking to. For example, the fact that there are only men in a meeting doesn’t make it ok to tell a sexist joke. Nor is it ok to spread gossip about someone behind their back. Such actions have no place at work and will always come back to haunt you.

Likewise, if you suspect that you may have said something out of turn but aren’t quite sure, it’s almost always the right choice to ask the affected person if you upset them. By showing your concern in borderline situations, you can help reinforce your workplace relationships and show the people you work with that you care about them.

To learn more about effective workplace communication, consider the many benefits of working with a Chicago speech coach. Executive speech coaching could help you nail your next presentation, negotiate more persuasively with clients, and even earn you a promotion ahead of schedule. Call now to learn more.  

The Importance of Caregivers and Language Development

Caregivers and Speech

Your child’s brain develops faster in their first three years than at any other point in life. In fact, by the time your child is three, their brain is 85% of the size it will be when your child is grown up. More and more studies are showing just how critical the first few years are to brain development. Foundational physical, emotional, and language development all take place during your child’s first three years.

This can feel like an awful lot of pressure, especially on first time parents. The good news is that you don’t have to be a psychologist or a doctor to raise a healthy, happy child. Likewise, if your child is a bit behind on certain milestones by their third birthday, that’s usually nothing to worry about. All children develop at different rates. Even within the same family, different children can have very different strengths and weaknesses.

Three simple ways that you can help your child develop strong language skills are reading to them, singing to them, and talking to them.

Reading

Start reading to your child on day one. If your child is already a toddler and you’ve never spent much time reading her books, it isn’t too late to start. Some children will tell you that they don’t like books and are not interested. Don’t let that deter you. Keep suggesting reading time to your little ones, and do your best to find books that they like. For example, many infants are interested in books with black and white pictures, and many toddlers enjoy books with pictures of babies. Books with flaps to lift and pop-ups can be a great introduction to story time. Stop by your local library with your little one to discover books that interest her without spending a dime.

Singing

Singing engages different parts of the brain than speaking alone. Simple melodies like lullabies and nursery rhymes tend to captivate children, because it’s easier for children to start to recognize patterns in simple songs. Likewise, rhyming helps develop language skills by making new words easier to learn. You can sing songs to help your little one’s focus, to calm them down when they’re upset, or to help them pass the time in the car.

Talking

Talking to your child is a simple way to expose them to more language and help them learn to speak faster. Try to avoid “baby talk,” but use consistent words for certain daily activities so that your child can start to associate the words to the activity. You can also narrate what you’re doing to your child, even if you don’t think she’ll understand. One day you may just be surprised to find that you can tell your toddler, “Go get your blue dinosaur,” and she’ll successfully retrieve it.

If at any point you become concerned that something is off with your child’s language development, don’t hesitate to contact a speech language pathologist (SLP). A great Chicago SLP can provide a free consultation to help you determine whether your little one has any speech or language concerns that need to be addressed. To learn more about speech therapy in Chicago, feel free to give our office a call.

The Use of Effective Storytelling During Presentations

storytelling during presentations

Humans have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been able to communicate. Some researchers believe there are as few as seven basic stories that get told over and over again. And within those seven stories, there is just one basic story structure – beginning, middle, and end.

But as simple as the mechanics of story are, and regardless of how many stories we hear, stories still have a powerful way of captivating our attention and pulling us in. Oftentimes, story can be even more powerful than facts or debate, because story puts us in the shoes of the protagonist (main character), no matter how similar or different that person is to/from us.

When giving business presentations, it would be easy to assume that story is irrelevant, but nothing could be further from the truth. From political speeches to advertisements to the ways that we communicate with our family and friends, speakers who use story to get their points across are always the most engaging and the most persuasive.

Here are a few basic principles of story that you can use in your next presentation:

1. Stories have three parts.

The beginning, middle, and end. First a story establishes the way the world used to be, including an important problem that wasn’t being addressed. Then the story introduces a big change, something that throws everything upside down and forces a new path. And in the end, the story reveals whether that change led to a better world and the resolution of the problem or not.

In terms of a business presentation, you’re likely sharing information about some sort of change, whether that be a new product or a new protocol or idea. To effectively get across the benefits of the change, you need to first establish what the situation was before the change came into being and the problem with that situation, then you can introduce the change, and finally you can show how the change solved (or will solve) the problem. That’s story.

2. Stories set up expectations and defy them.

Every good story sets up expectations. We all understand the basic patterns of stories, so when we’re introduced to a guy and a girl who seem perfectly suited to each other at the beginning of a story, we expect that they will soon meet and fall in love. But what if the two people meet and become worst enemies? That defies our expectations and causes us to lean in, because we no longer know what to expect and instinctively want to get ahead of the story once again.

The same is true in business presentations. Your audience is always going to assume that they know where you’re going, so if you can find opportunities to surprise them with better than expected results or maybe a feature that they never would have predicted, that will keep them on their toes and engaged.

3. Stories are emotional.

Not every business presentation is going to bring your audience to tears, but it’s always important to remember that humans are emotional creatures who crave connection. Whether you can find a way to put your audience in the shoes of a particular person facing a particular challenge or more generally in the shoes of a case study company, doing so will help them emotionally invest in the story that you’re telling.

To learn more about the dynamics of story and how you can become a better business storyteller, call our Chicago office today.  

At Home Speech Therapy Activities for Kids

at home speech therapy activities

With Thanksgiving and winter breaks right around the corner, your children are going to be spending a lot of time at home. Finding ways to fill all of that time can be stressful for any parent, and the challenges are only bigger if your child is missing out on their typical in-school speech therapy sessions during school breaks.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can help your child practice their speech and language skills at home while engaging them in a bit of holiday fun. Here are a few of our favorite holiday-themed speech and language activities to do at home:

Recite holiday poems.

Many of the best children’s poems involve snow, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other fall and winter holiday fun. Start with a short poem and either feed it to your child line by line, or print it on a large piece of construction paper and hang it somewhere accessible in the home for your child to read and practice whenever they pass by. They’ll love putting on a performance for you, and the rhythm of the poems will help them fall in love with words and language.

Here is a great selection of poems to get you started.

Sing holiday songs.

From “Over the River and Through the Woods” to the endless array of winter songs, you’ll find no shortage of carols to sing with your little ones. Singing is a great way to build confidence and practice forming sounds that can sometimes be easier to sing than say.

Little helpers.

During the holidays, you’ll often find yourself in need of a little helper, and many kids will be excited to participate in the festivities. Whenever you can, find opportunities to let your children help you with cooking, decorating, setting the table, and other such tasks that will help them feel involved and important. Just remember to find age-appropriate tasks and use language to direct them.

Ask them questions throughout the process, and encourage them to also ask you questions, if they’re old enough.

Ask questions about presents.

Leading up to any holidays involving presents, engage your children in conversation about what they’re hoping to get and why. Ask what they’ll do with their presents. Ask about sizes, colors, and textures. After your child opens their presents, ask them to tell you what they got and to describe their feelings. Even if your children are just starting to speak or are not verbal yet, talk to them about their presents, about the holiday, and about all the people in the house.

And remember, if you need extra speech therapy support during the holidays or any other time of year, we are here to help. Give our office a call to set up an assessment any time. 

5 Ways “Busy-ness” Impacts Your Communication and Presentations

Avoid Busyness in Presentations

It’s no secret that a large portion of Americans are overworked. We’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it in. All the tasks on our plate have a tendency to seep into the way that we communicate with each other, and that can create big problems in the workplace.

While you may not always be able to help how much you need to do, you can be cognizant of how your “busy-ness” affects your business. Whether you’re going through a work-heavy week or “busy” is simply a constant state of being for you, consider how you could improve these five busy-ness related missteps that might be hindering your communication:

1. Poor Body Language

When you’re overly busy or stressed, you might be more likely to check your phone during conversations or more likely to give into nervous ticks like twirling your hair or tightly crossing your arms. Regardless of how busy you are, put the phone away, look the person you’re talking to in the eye, and stand up straight. If it helps, take a deep calming breath before heading into your boss’s office. That will help you focus on the subject at hand and be more productive and professional.

2. Sloppy Emails

When you get busy, the quality of your emails is likely to go downhill because you have to send so darn many of them. If you find yourself sending the same sorts of emails over and over, set up some templates for yourself to make the process faster. Always use proper punctuation and grammar. And remember that you have a phone! Instead of defaulting to email, recognize that you might save a lot of time and energy by simply calling the person you need to speak to.

3. Underpreparing

When you’re busy, you might choose to go “off the cuff” in your next presentation. A disorganized presentation isn’t going to help the people you’re presenting to or your career. Prioritize getting your presentation right to avoid the possibility of having to do it again later – or never getting that chance.

4. Focusing on the urgent rather than the important

A big mistake that we all make from time to time is getting caught up in immediate deadlines rather than the overall big picture. Try to communicate according to your priorities, not your pressures. By keeping a grasp on the big picture, you’ll be empowered to communicate with purpose.

5. Foot-in-Mouth syndrome

When we’re hurried, we tend to say things without thinking, which can have a devastating effect in the business world. Whether it’s a bad joke or a white lie gone too far, it’s always worth taking the time to consider your audience and think about what you’re going to say before speaking.

If your busy schedule has had a detrimental effect on your communication skills, it may be time to work with a Chicago executive speech coach. Executive speech coaching in Chicago can help you harness your communication strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Whether you have a big presentation coming up or want to be a more effective overall leader, we can help.

Strategies to Enhance Language Stimulation in Young Children

Language Stimulation in Young Children

It’s never too early to start practicing language skills with your children. From the day your baby is born, she starts absorbing information and stimuli from the world around her, and you are one of her main points of focus. There are a wide variety of ways that you can encourage your child to communicate with you, including:

At Birth…

Talk to your baby. Let her know what you’re doing and how you’re feeling using soothing, pleasant tones. She won’t understand yet, but she will be listening.

Sing to your baby. Take time every day to sing lullabies and learning songs. Simple melodies are the most appealing to young ears, but you can mix it up with a few of your favorite songs, too.

Read to your baby. Head to your local library sale or Good Will and invest in board books that your baby can admire, handle, and chew on. The earlier you can expose your children to books, the better.

At Six Months…

Start to introduce baby sign language. It may take several months before your baby signs back to you, but she may be able to sign before she can speak, which gives her a way to communicate her needs and reduce her frustration when she’s hungry, wet, or tired.

Babble with your baby. Repeat the sounds that she makes back to her. Practice the rhythm of conversation by listening to her babble, then babbling back, then listening again.

At One Year…

Identify your child’s favorite objects. You likely already do this, but take extra care when your child points to an object by identifying it with simple words and/or descriptions of the item’s color, shape, or size.

Try to limit TV time. Research shows that your child will learn much better from you than from TV, even if she is starting to be engaged by what she sees. Try to limit screen time as much as possible before the age of two (and beyond).

At Two Years…

Ask lots of questions. Point to objects in books and ask your child to identify them. Ask her what sounds various animals make. Give her choices whenever possible.

Gently test her language. Your child may understand more of what you say than you realize. You can gently test her by asking her, for example, to go get her green dinosaur in her room. You may be surprised at just how many directions she can follow when asked.

In Pre-school and Beyond

Keep reading books and singing. The more you play with your child, the more you’ll communicate with her. Reading together should be a daily habit that will help her build strong pre-reading skills like turning pages and calling out objects she recognizes in favorite books.

Ask about and share feelings and emotions. As your child gets older, your conversations can get more mature. Remember to ask how she’s feeling and to answer the questions she asks you as honestly as you can.

If you’re worried about your child’s language development, it’s important to remember that all children develop differently, and “normal” milestones can happen at very different times for different children, even within the same family. But if your child seems significantly behind in some way or another, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. Your pediatrician may be able to point you to an early intervention program – there’s one in every state and territory – that can provide services and support if your child has developmental delays.

You should also reach out to a Chicago speech language pathologist (or an SLP in your area). Call our office to ask any questions you may have or to schedule an assessment with a Chicago speech therapist. 

Poverty and Its Impact on Language Development Among Children – Part II: The Possibilities

poverty and language

In part one of this series, we discussed how nearly one in five children currently live in poverty in the United States and how that number goes up when you consider children who live near poverty.

We also discussed the various ways that a child’s language development tends to be inhibited by poverty.

In this article, we’ll look at a variety of steps that low-income parents can take to help their children develop their language skills and be better prepared for academic success.

It Takes a Village

One of the biggest challenges that children from low-income families face is that they tend to get less focused interactions with adults. While this is a difficult problem to grapple with, the first step is being aware of how much and in what way you speak with your children.

From infancy onward, the more you can sing and speak in a positive way to your children – not just around them, but to them – the more their vocabulary will grow. In fact, the Stanford study mentioned in the previous article found that among disadvantaged families, children who got access to more parental engagement processed information more quickly and learned language faster than their peers.

Of course, if you’re working two jobs to make ends meet, finding the time and energy for regular conversation with your children can be incredibly difficult. That’s why it’s also important to seek and accept help from other capable adults whenever possible.

Take advantage of free after-school programs. Accept your mom’s offer to watch your child every Tuesday. Apply for federal or state child care assistance. Rely on your community. The more people who love and support your child, the better. Don’t feel like you need to go it alone.

Promoting a Healthy Start

Health insurance can be prohibitively expensive for low income families, and lack of access to health care can lead to long-term issues that can inhibit language development.

But rest assured -- the Affordable Care Act is still in place. If you haven’t already done so, visit HealthCare.gov to learn if you are eligible for free or low-cost health insurance. Even if you aren’t eligible, your child may be eligible for coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). And even if you don’t qualify for any of that, make a point of visiting your local clinic for regular checkups starting during pregnancy and continuing throughout early childhood.

You should also check the Department of Health & Human Services website for federal and state programs that you may qualify to help support your family, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Books, Classes, and Speech Language Pathology

New books for your child can be expensive, but getting books into your child’s hands as early as possible is crucial to their language development.

So sign up for a free library card as soon as you can and start checking out books on a regular basis. From infancy onward, sit with your child and read to them in fun voices. Point to pictures and ask them to identify what they see. Let them turn the pages.

You can also sign up for programs like Imagination Library, which sends books to children across the country.

And remember that your local community centers and libraries often offer free classes for young children to sing, read, and dance together. Remember that play is learning.You may also be able to get free access to a qualified speech language pathologist through your child’s school if they are old enough. A speech language pathologist can help you and your child gain the language skills needed for social and academic success.

Poverty and speech language development are linked, but it is possible to break the chain. To learn more about poverty and kid’s speech or to get your questions answered by a Chicago speech language pathologist, give our office a call today. 

Poverty and Its Impact on Language Development Among Children – Part I: The Problem

poverty and child language development

According to the US Census Bureau, the current poverty threshold is an annual income of $24,858 for a family of four. That is what the department determined is the bare minimum income needed in order to provide the basic needs of life. When you consider that the average cost of rent nationwide is at an all-time high of $1,412 – or just over $15,000 per year – it’s hard to imagine how any US family could get by on so little.

But according to 2016 data from the Census Bureau, that is the state of affairs for 12.7% of Americans, and children are disproportionately affected. A staggering 18% of children under the age of 18 live at or below the poverty line. All told, over 40 million people live in poverty in this country, and it’s estimated that another 60 million people live in near-poverty.

What does all of this have to do with language? Unfortunately, quite a lot.

A recent study out of Stanford confirmed what other studies have shown for years – that there is a strong link between socioeconomic status and language development. The study found that by the age of five, children from lower income families score more than two years behind wealthier children on standardized language development tests, and what’s worse, the discrepancies begin appearing as early as 18 months old.

A flippant observer might argue that wealthier families are simply smarter, and that’s how they got to be wealthy, but this misguided argument does not hold up to close scrutiny. A wide array of factors from lack of opportunity to health problems to cultural or language barriers to societal prejudices to plain bad luck can all have an impact upon socioeconomic status. And children who are brought up in lower income families have all the same potential as their wealthier counterparts, but they face much harsher obstacles.

The Impact of Poverty on Language Development

Poverty and speech language development tend to be linked in a number of ways.

  • Limited adult interaction: Parents who must work extra hours in order to bring home enough money to live on tend to have less time and energy for their children as well as a limited ability to provide their children with high-quality day care. The result is that, by age three, children from wealthier homes hear an average of 30 million more words than children from low-income homes.
  • Health problems: Low income families have a much harder time accessing health care, including mental health care. This can inhibit the overall health of the family, stress levels, and ability to get to day care or work. Malnutrition is also a problem in low income households that can affect the energy as well as the mental and physical development of children.
  • Limited access to books and learning resources: When you’re barely making enough money to live on, it’s hard to justify buying books for your toddler who can’t even read yet. By one estimate, middle income neighborhoods have an average of twelve books per child whereas low income neighborhoods have an average of one book for every three hundred children. Without access to books, adequate stimulation, and language-building toys, it’s no wonder that low income children fall so far behind.

This paints a rather bleak picture, but the good news is that parents living below and near the poverty line can take free or extremely low-cost steps to help their children, which we will cover in part two.

In the meantime, to learn more about poverty and kid’s speech or to set up a free consultation with a Chicago speech language pathologist, give our office a call. 

Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce with Effective Communication

workplace communication

The Harvard Business Review has reported that, according to an Interact/Harris Poll survey, 91% of employees say that poor communication can drag an executive down. The survey looked at several different forms of communication that leaders struggle with. More than 50% of workers said their bosses did not recognize their achievements, didn’t give clear directions, didn’t have time to meet with them, and even refused to talk to subordinates.

Now, you may feel that you’re actually pretty good at all of those forms of communication, but are you sure that the people who report to you would agree? As a leader, it’s vital to recognize that not everyone learns or communicates in the same ways. Particularly if you have a multi-generational group of employees, you may discover that you’re connecting with some more readily than others.

The poor manager would put the blame for this on other generations, saying that what works for their generation should work for everyone. But work habits and attitudes evolve. Being stuck in a certain mindset about how people “should” communicate doesn’t help anyone. Instead, it’s important to meet your employees where their communication needs lie.

Here are a few tips for doing just that:

Offer flexibility whenever possible. Acknowledge that different people work differently. For example, try to let parents come in early and leave early, and allow younger workers to keep later work hours if you can. Don’t enforce stringent policies without first asking yourself whether the policy has a useful purpose.

When giving presentations, use multiple formats to help different types of learners get the most out of what you’re sharing. That might include offering a handout, incorporating video or slides, and/or or planning hands-on activities in addition to your spoken presentation.

Don’t ignore the communication needs of any one group. Remember that in-person meetings, phone calls, emails, texts, and work messaging apps can all be effective business tools. Don’t rule any option out, and offer training where needed on communication tools that might be unfamiliar to younger or older generations without judgement. Keeping everyone in the loop helps promote a more cohesive and productive work environment.

Celebrate the diversity of your workplace by inviting others to the podium. The best way to bring people together is to give everyone opportunities to share their knowledge, experiences, passions, and concerns with one another. Promote better communication by giving employees opportunities to lead their own presentations, even on topics unrelated to work.

If you’re eager to move your career forward, working with a Chicago executive speech coach could be the step you’ve been looking for. An experienced executive speech coach in Chicago can help you improve both your public speaking and your interpersonal communication, preparing you for bigger and better leadership roles. Give our office a call to learn more.

 

Tips on Oral Healthcare for those Suffering from Dysphagia

Dysphagia and Oral Healthcare

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia can have a number of different causes, it can range from mild to severe, and it can be a problem for both children and adults.Dysphagia can be caused by a variety of neurological disorders, most commonly strokes. But dysphagia can also be the result of an injury or other physical disability in the throat or mouth.

Swallowing may be something that you don’t give any thought to, but take a moment -- if you’re able -- and swallow right now. Pay attention to how many muscles are engaged in your throat and tongue when you swallow. Feel the contraction of your throat and the movement of your saliva. Now imagine how one impaired or paralyzed muscle could affect your ability to swallow. People who deal with dysphagia sometimes have difficulty eating food without drooling, coughing, or even choking.

If you’re currently dealing with swallowing issues, it’s important to get in touch with a speech language pathologist. A Chicago SLP can help you determine the root cause of your dysphagia and work with you to make eating and communicating easier over time.

An SLP can also provide you with helpful information about how to care for your oral health while coping with dysphagia. Good oral hygiene promotes good overall health. Bacteria in the mouth can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease, which allows pathogens to enter the blood stream and pass into other parts of the body. A healthy mouth may be harder to achieve when dealing with dysphagia, but with the right tools, it’s possible.

Remember that even if you or the person you care for have such severe dysphagia that you are unable to consume food orally, you still need to clean your teeth and rinse your mouth at least twice a day. Your Chicago speech language pathologist and/or dentist can help you find strategies for cleaning your mouth that work for you.

After any meal, check your mouth for any food that might have lodged itself in your teeth or inside your cheeks. When bits of food become dislodged, they can present a choking hazard.

And remember that everyone needs help sometimes. Don’t let embarrassment or fear of being a burden keep you from getting the assistance that you need. We are built to be social creatures who rely on one another for care and support. That’s how we all stay healthy and safe.